Assistant Professor Ranjana Mehta, Ph.D. from the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health conducted a study to explain why mental stress sometimes causes us to feel physically exhausted. The phenomenon is actually caused by the activation in a specific area in the brain when we try to participate in mental and physical activities simultaneously.
The Study: Why Am I Always Tired
Generally, endurance and exhaustion have been studied mainly with regard to physical perspectives – how muscles and the overall body complete a particular task. The brain has not been considered as a part of these examinations, even though it is also a biological tissue and if overused, could possibly suffer from symptoms of fatigue.
Mehta suggests that so far, fatigue has only been linked to cardiovascular, muscular and biochemical changes. This study focused on monitoring brain and muscle functions to understand the impact fatigue could have on brain behavior, more specifically the prefrontal cortex (PFC).
The study revealed that, in the case of both mental and physical fatigue, oxygen levels in the PFC are decreased. This is not the case when only physical fatigue is being considered. After examining brain and muscle function simultaneously, it was observed that when participating in highly cognitive activities, the resources of the brain are divided, accelerating the development of physical exhaustion.
Why am i always tired? To make things clearer: when mental and physical tasks are done at the same time, certain areas in the brain (PFC) our activated. This results in our bodies feeling tired much sooner than if we were only doing a physical task.
Why These Findings Are Important
The study highlights the importance of considering both brain and body when examining the development of fatigue. Neurocognitive principles, along with physiological and biomechanical mechanisms can give scientists a comprehensive understanding of the changes that take place in our body while performing day-to-day tasks.
“Not a lot of people see the value in looking at both the brain and the body together. However, no one does purely physical or mental work; they always do both”, stated Mehta in the study published online in Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. The study’s co-author was Raja Parasuraman, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at George Mason University in Virginia.
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